Self-awareness and Engagement

November 25, 2013 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorLast week we talked about “Beth,” a nervous presenter. Beth is a smart, articulate professional, but when it came to presenting she struggled and became self-conscious.

The first hurdle we had to jump was to settle her thoughts so that she could be in control. We did that through active pausing.

Beth was amazed at how such a simple thing could give her so much control over her ability to communicate clearly and confidently.

That’s great, but Beth also needs to be able TO DO IT, even when the stakes are high. That will require a new level of self-awareness (not self-consciousness) and engagement than what she’s used to.

“You need to be able to recognize – even when things are swirling out of control – that it’s happening. That level of awareness is critical in order for you to take control back,” I said.

In our workshops we talk a lot about being engaged in the conversation. Even when the stakes are high, we need to be as comfortable and in control as we are in everyday low-stakes situations. We need to be able to shift our focus outward, look around the room, take stock, think, and most importantly, we need to make a connection with the people we’re speaking with.

Rather than thinking, “How am I doing?” we need to think, “How are THEY doing?”

That requires eye contact. Not scanning the room. Not looking over their heads, but real solid make-a-connection eye contact so that you actually SEE them.

We’ve written about it many times, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. Here’s a good primer on engagement: http://theorderlyconversation.com/wordpress/why-we-do-what-we-do-part-3-of-4/

The bottom line is that in order to be an effective presenter, one who is truly in control and fully aware of what’s going on around them, you need to be self-aware and engaged in the conversation taking place.

Easier said than done, for sure.

Let us know how we can help you.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Rethinking the Visual Component of Your Presentations (Part 4 of 4)

September 24, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

This is the final article in a series focusing on the need to take a fresh look at the visuals you use in your presentations. This article focuses on visuals intended to bring emphasis or emotion to the conversation. This type of visual might be a photograph (a completed project or happy employees, for example), a simple graphic (an arrow pointing up or down), or a trigger added to emphasize part of a more complex image (a circle around a single bar on a bar chart).

Because these visuals are used for emphasis and clarity, let’s call them punctuation slides. When used well, they make your message easier to understand and remember.

While punctuation slides can be very effective, there are two things to consider before using them.

First, will they be appropriate? As you know, it’s often hard to predict what will happen during an Orderly Conversation. The mood in the room may not be what you anticipate during preparation. A visual meant to communicate optimism might fall flat with a group of listeners feeling something else. So it’s important to anticipate how the visual may be received and interpreted by your audience.

Second, are you prepared to deliver them well?

  • Timing: If you’re using a slide to spark emotion, it needs to come into the conversation at the right moment and, once there, be allowed to do its job. For the presenter, that means knowing precisely when to advance to that slide and pausing long enough for the visual impact to be made.
  • Acknowledging: Just because the image on a punctuation slide is easy for listeners to understand, doesn’t mean you can ignore it during delivery. Often, presenters struggle to know what to say when they’re using this type of slide. But, just like any other, punctuation slides need to be acknowledged and explained. For example, “I’m really excited to show you how well this project turned out. Before we get into the details, here’s a photograph of the team at our last meeting. It’s easy to see the pride on all those smiling faces.”
  • Matching the emotion: When your slides communicate emotion, you should too. If your slide communicates optimism, happiness, or celebration, your audience needs to hear it in your voice and see it on your face. If they don’t, you’re sending a mixed and confusing message.

Like the framing and content slides discussed in the last two articles, punctuation slides serve a specific purpose during your presentations. Knowing what that purpose is and what it means for delivery will help you use them successfully.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Rethinking the Visual Component of Your Presentations (Part 1 of 4)

August 5, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

We need a new way to talk about the visual component of business presentations. I didn’t use the term “visual aids” to describe this part of the process for a reason. That term, one that has been around long enough to have been applied to everything from a flip chart to a 35 mm slide to an overhead transparency and now PowerPoint slides, is losing its usefulness.

It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the term. It’s just that “visual aids” are associated with the following universally accepted best practices, all of which need to be reexamined in light of today’s presentations.

  1. Your slides are visual aids. Their role is subordinate to the presenter.
  2. Visuals must be simple and communicate their message quickly.
  3. Graphics are better than words.
  4. Bullet points are boring.
  5. Never, ever project an “eye chart” (a detailed slide with words and numbers too small for the audience to read).

Don’t get me wrong. There is truth to be found in each of these statements. But it’s only partial truth—not true in all situations and not true all the time.

We see this in every workshop we deliver. Business presenters use—and use well—a broad range of visual support in their presentations. When we work with them, they always assume that we’re going to condemn any slide that breaks any of the standard rules. “Sorry, I know this is a complicated slide …” or “Now I know you’re not going to like this, but I need to project this spreadsheet because …”

We tell these presenters to relax. We aren’t the PowerPoint Police. We aren’t going to confiscate their slides. What we will do is help them figure out the best way to communicate the information that needs to be communicated. Sometimes that has to do with simplifying or altering the slide. Sometimes it has more to do with how the slide is explained during delivery.

What would make this process easier for everyone is a better way to think about all the different types of visuals we use. We need to answer questions like these:

  1. As you know, we define presentations as Orderly Conversations. We need to ask how the slides you use contribute to the process. Do they bring order to or are they the subject of the conversation?
  2. Does the information or data on the slide exist outside the presentation, as a sales report, financial report, marketing data, or flow chart, for example? Or was the slide created specifically for this presentation?
  3. Is the slide meant to bring emphasis or emotion to the presentation?

In the next three posts, I’ll focus on these questions.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 3 of 5)

February 20, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

This is the third in a series of five blog posts focusing on the distinction between the academic approach to public speaking and the skill-building approach business presenters need. My goal with this series is to talk about why the application of Public Speaking 101 approaches in the corporate training room fails to meet the needs of business presenters.

This post will focus on what are traditionally called “delivery skills.” These are the physical and vocal skills you use to communicate in every face-to-face interaction. If you approach your presentation as a performance instead of a conversation (as I discussed in my last post), your focus will be on how these skills look and sound to your audience. The success of a performance of a speech involves, for example, establishing eye contact with your audience to appear trustworthy, pausing to emphasize your points, controlling gestures to appear professional, and bringing enthusiasm to your voice.

What’s missing with that approach is consideration of what these skills do for you, the presenter. Let’s look at eye contact and pausing. During our workshops we talk about these skills as engagement skills. When they are used well, they help presenters relax, focus, and bring their listeners into the conversation.

The use of these skills, in other words, is about much more than simply how they make you look and sound. They are essential for the conversation. Through their application you are able to keep your thoughts and focus in the here and now. If you’re only thinking about how these skills appear to others, it takes you out of the moment and turns your focus inward. This weakens your connection to listeners and turns the conversation into a performance.

For most people, after you’re engaged in the conversation, your other delivery skills take care of themselves. Gestures occur naturally and vocal enthusiasm is appropriate and genuine. So rather than thinking of these skills as the polish you apply to performance, think of them as the welcome result of being engaged in the conversation.

In the next post I’ll talk about the need to bring real-life presentations into training.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Work and Fun, In That Order

May 21, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Training

This is a follow up to a post I wrote earlier this year entitled “Do you really expect me to respond to that?” In that entry I wrote about how the opening of your presentation or training session should not rely on really obvious rhetorical questions or shallow attempts to get the audience excited about your topic. My point was that your job at the front of the room is to set the right tone and communicate context for what’s to come. And that requires respecting the effort you expect the audience to make. Too often, though, people assume that they need to disguise the work to be done as something that is fun.

Presenters—and especially trainers—should never assume that the audience expects the presentation or the training session to be fun. It is, after all, work. It is work to pay attention, to process information and to learn new things. All of that can happen while people are having a good time, but it will not happen just because the person at the front of the room has decided that it’s time for an energizer, an exercise of dubious quality, or, worst of all, a joke or a cartoon.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against fun. But it needs to happen as the work is being done. That means it should have one of these two qualities. First, it can be an unplanned, unforced response to what’s happening in the room. Second, it can be an exercise that is absolutely relevant and necessary that also happens to be fun. In other words, the fun should be a reaction to what’s happening, not an agenda point.

So the next time you’re presenting to or facilitating a group of people remember that the best way to make them happy is to make the process—the work they’re doing for you—as relevant and easy as possible. If the time they spend with you is well spent, they will walk away happy that they were there.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication